finding new garden treasure

Something remarkable has happened since I started the great forsythia massacre 2019 — a new plant (or new to me) has made itself visible.

And I am not sure what it is.

When forsythia takes over it’s like a shrub Kudzu with monstrous arms covering everything in its path. And what I never knew until I began to beat back 50 years of overgrown forsythia is it more grows over everything than up and through everything.

I have literally discovered more than three new large areas in my garden to plant by cutting back and digging out overgrown forsythia. For the life of me I don’t know why forsythia doesn’t end up on an invasive species list because it truly is invasive.

This time around as I started to cut it back, I realized the forsythia was SO overgrown it had smothered itself in part.

I cut and I cut and I cut. Over the past couple of weeks my mountain of plant prunings has grown and grown and bit by bit the forsythia has shrunk back. Once again I discovered bare earth with not even a weed.

And then I looked up. I saw a plant I had never seen before. It had white sort of airy fairy frothy flowers. I thought it was a vine at first. I had already pulled out the obnoxious twisting vine hell known as bittersweet. I had already pulled out the dog rose which I yank out whenever possible because of the mites that carry rosey rosette disease.

I cut back some additional dead growth, and all of a sudden I realized what I was looking at was actually a shrub.

Now to discover what it is. I haven’t figured that out yet. I am leaning towards some sort of viburnum. I have discovered other viburnum growing wild in my woods, including one of my favorites, maple leaf viburnum. I have also consulted some garden experts via a garden app I use called Garden Answers. They sent me an email that said it was a black elderberry:

Sambucus nigra is a species complex of flowering plants in the family Adoxaceae native to most of Europe and North America. Common names include elder, elderberry, black elder, European elder, European elderberry and European black elderberry. It grows in a variety of conditions including both wet and dry fertile soils, primarily in sunny locations.

Purple- and cut-leaved form of Black Elder, a vigorous, upright deciduous shrub producing amazing, large pink blooms and stout canes. Once the blooms are done in mid summer, tiny, shiny black fruits form that are edible to both humans and birds. Native to Europe, North Africa and Southwest Asia. Black Lace is a trademark used to sell the ‘Eva’ cultivar.

It prefers afternoon shade, regular water and a slow release fertilizer 4 times a year.

My problem with that is I have black elderberry and the leaves are darker. Also these flowers are white. But maybe it is an elderberry and not a viburnum. Time will tell when the berries form.

This is the fun of tending to your own garden. You discover things. Hidden gems in unknown plants, or at least unknown to you.

It’s like a treasure hunt when a garden gives you an unexpected plant!

you haven’t lived until you have been told you bought too many plants at a plant sale…

Seriously, it’s sad but true. You have not lived until you have been chastised for buying too many plants at a plant sale given by a plant society that you are a member of. That happened to me this spring.

I like to try to support national horticultural nonprofits as well as local plant societies either by membership or by buying at their plant sales. This spring I have found some fabulous plants at the herb society plant sale, my friend’s plant sale, the azalea and rhododendron society plant sale, Jenkins Arboretum and more.

But for the groups I belong to, there is one group I have struggled with since I joined. I’ve tried so hard. I’ve offered my garden for one of their tours, I offered last year to volunteer on their tour at a garden that was close to me, and so on. When I go to events I try to buy what they are selling in order to support the group. Yet it is not a group that plays well with others.

This one group that is very insular for lack of a better description. And that starts the top with the board. It’s like you’re suspect for being friendly, and I just don’t know where to go with that in my head so I avoided a couple of events until the recent one I attended.

I arrived late at the event because I had another obligation. They knew I was coming late because I didn’t want them to think I was just being rude, and I told them. When I arrived the person at the sign in table who is also the group head kind of cut me dead. They didn’t look at me, didn’t say hello to me….nothing. That was really awkward and uncomfortable. And my name tag didn’t have a little plastic thing to put it in so I couldn’t even wear that. I had the urge to turn around and leave when I first got there and I should’ve listened to that inner voice.

When they announced that the plant sale was opening up, I told the person who told everyone that that I didn’t get a number so I didn’t know where in the order I was for buying plants. (You see, they give out numbers and every number that called gets to go in order. ) So that person said oh go ahead just buy plants so I picked out six little plants.

Now when I say little I mean little. These plants were the size of plants that you usually buy in a six pack of plant cells early on in the season. These plants were basically not much bigger than starter plugs. I don’t normally buy starter plugs. I prefer to buy plants that are a little more established so they stand a better chance of success. But I was trying to support the group it’s a nonprofit.

I paid for my plants, I took them home and planted them. Flash Forward to a conversation with someone in the group. I was chastised for buying too many plants. The person who was supposed to hand out the plant numbers at the meeting and plant sale told this person that I was there for some announcement where it was said people could only buy two plants. I wasn’t. I wouldn’t have bought six plants if I had been told only to purchase two.

I’m sitting here thinking to myself should I take them out and return them? They’ve barely grown so I probably could. The other thing is what I bought wasn’t particularly unusual or even rare. I had a hard time finding things to buy but I was trying to be supportive. My mouth is still kind of hanging open with this one. Nobody has ever accused me of buying too many plants except my husband and that’s been after some trips to Black Creek in East Earl when I fill up the porch!

I’m thinking I’m kind of done with this group. I have tried my best for a couple of years and it’s just not working. And that’s fine — not everybody on the face of the earth has to like you. But if they think I’m going to be chastised for buying too many plants when I didn’t know I was buying too many plants, pay my membership dues and go to events were people are kind of rude to me, sorry not sorry I have better things to do. And no, no garden tours in their future either.

But odd situations like this are not just limited to this group, sadly. A lot of groups have core membership that’s been entrenched for in some cases, decades. I know friends who have tried to volunteer for other kinds of groups who have run into other kinds of odd roadblocks, and it’s all because the old guard of whichever group doesn’t want to let anybody NEW in yet they are conflicted because they need to have new membership in order to survive.

But I just didn’t think this would happen with the group that is related to one of my favorite things — gardening.

Live and learn! Well I am off to plantaholics anonymous now! Cheers!

japanese mountain hydrangeas from gardens oy vey

Can you feel me doing the happy gardener happy garden dance? (and no it’s not because of the third straight day of crazy thunderstorms ,either)

When I went on my mad mission of cutting back forsythia (otherwise known as the great forsythia massacre 2019), I discovered yet another garden space that didn’t have forsythia growing in it but forsythia had grown over it. So I have this new planting area. It is completely weed free and the soil is in decent shape.

After I had cleared out the forsythia, I lived with the space for a couple of days. Then it dawned on me: mountain hydrangeas and mountain laurels. And I could also move ferns and hostas that needed splitting from other areas of the garden.

So the hostas and ferns went in, and I have a fern order of more specialized ferns coming from New Hampshire Hostas and Companion Plants, and mountain laurels coming from another source.

But when Lazy S Farm in Virginia closed it’s doors due to retirement, I had lost my source for Japanese and Korean mountain hydrangeas. I love hydrangeas in general, but I like the offbeat varieties like these mountain hydrangeas because they do very well in our Chester County winters. I also think they lend an undeniable elegance to woodland and shade gardens. I want my garden to reflect me and I don’t want to have the same plants that everyone else has.

Anyway, when I was doing my search for these hydrangeas a listing came up on Etsy of all places. From Gardens Oy Vey in Tennessee. Their prices were good and the plants looked good so I thought I’ll give it a try.

My three hydrangeas arrived today. And they arrived in perfect condition beautifully wrapped and when I undid the packaging they sprung to life almost immediately even before I gave them a drink of water.

The hydrangeas I ordered were:

Hydrangea Serrata “Blue Bird”

Hydrangea Serrata “Little Geisha”

Hydrangea Serrata “Beni”

I will also note that the plants arrived with among the best planting instructions I have ever seen and a nice note about the type of hydrangea I ordered from the owners of the nursery.

I am not planting the hydrangeas today because I always try to give mail order plants at least a day to recover from their travels. And today I am looking at the sky, and hearing the low rumbles of thunder in the background and I don’t want these plants to get smashed to bits after traveling from Tennessee to Pennsylvania.

Gardens Oy Vey has a terrific website and I’m going to check out their other plants as soon as I finish this post.

The sky looks quite ominous right now and I look forward to weather that’s a little more settled. But the reality is what we are saying is climate change. It does exist no matter how some quarters would try to make you think it doesn’t.

When I plant these hydrangeas I will also be planting Caladiums in that planting area. They are coming from BloomBox and will add fun color and vibrancy to a new shade bed. I don’t know if I will plant Caladiums going forward in this location, but until the plants I purchased like the hydrangeas get established, it’s a nice way to fill in.

Anyway that is it for me, I am inside waiting for it to rain. The last photo in this post was the sky a few minutes ago.

being a good land steward


I had a plant impulse buy at Yellow Springs Farm on Saturday.  A Chestnut Oak. I fell in love with the tree at Jenkins Arboretum, and also purchased some last year from Go Native Tree Farm in Lancaster, PA.

When I joined Jenkins Arboretum as a member, one of the things they gave me was this guide to their trees and shrubs and plantings.  Chestnut Oaks thrive on their grounds and I love the leaves and bark and sheer majesty of them.

So I planted my latest Chestnut Oak this morning.  When my arborists were  here a few weeks ago they planted my Black Gum Tree (from Go Native) for me because of my severe allergies to poison ivy and the like, but today I had to suit up, spray in advance for ticks and what not and go into the woods.


I love my woods but once the poison ivy comes out, I have to watch where I go and what I touch.

When I was in the woods I noticed I have a patch of native Solomon Seal growing.  The native plants like that delight me each and every time I see one. I also seem to have some volunteer dogwoods and holly trees starting to grow.

IMG_4700But being good land stewards doesn’t mean clearing every square inch of undergrowth like I see people do, but removing invasives and allowing what should live there thrive. Don’t just plow your woods under to clear out brush.  You must be selective and careful.

We have had to take down trees because woods age and trees die.  But instead of allowing all soft woods to take over (like wild cherry trees and tulip poplars for example), I have made the decision to re-forest with species that are native to the area.  Like Chestnut Oaks.  I have also planted a Black Gum, Amish Walnuts (a crazy crossbreed which occurs in Lancaster County), Hazlenut, Hickories, Bur Oak, and understory trees like Sweetbay Magnolia.


I hope everything survives, but it is the woods so you never know.  I plant everything well and stake the trees to grow as straight as possible.  I utilize old pieces of wire fencing around them and spray for deer too.

So far so good.  If you are interested in native species and re-foresting your woods join an arboretum as well as a land conservancy where you live. They are a marvelous resource.  I also recommend Yellow Springs Farm and Go Native Tree Farm.

I will note after playing in the woods, everything including myself, spear headed spade, gloves and boots gets a Tecnu bath.  I also do a thorough tick check.

Thanks for stopping by.


for the love of goats


One of the New Kids on The Block at Yellow Springs Farm

Ha! That title caught your eye, eh gentle readers?

Good! I love my Yellow Springs Farm goats! Well they aren’t really my goats but I love them. And every year, this time of year Yellow Springs Farm has open farm weekends :

Sat, 05/18/2019 – 10:00am to 4:00pm
Sun, 05/19/2019 – 10:00am to 4:00pm
Yellow Springs Farm Native Plant Nursery and Artisanal Goat Cheese Dairy, will be having our Springs Native Plant sale over 2 weekends in May. Originally a dairy farm 150 years ago,the farm and nursery consists of an historic farmhouse, dairy barn, a springhouse with pond on 8 acres of land. We grow native plants, design and install native landscapes and produce over 25 varieties of fresh and aged artisanal goat cheeses. So come on out and take a picture on our Open Farm day weekends(May 11th/12th and May 18th and 19th) with our Nubian Goats, sample cheeses, and see our blooming wildflowers! Plant experts will be available to help you select plants for your garden or landscape plan.

It’s a little slice of heaven. The goats are total characters. The plants are awesome – I have planted three gardens with them now. And the goat cheese and yogurt? Award winning for a very good reason – totally delicious.


People visiting with the goats this weekend.

I have known the farmers Catherine and Al Renzi for years.  I remember back to circa 2001 when they decided to start their farm and when they bought it.

Over the years a well-deserved following has developed and the event has grown…as in the number of visitors increases every year. And this is where I am going to open my big mouth because it is a distinct privilege being able to visit Catherine and Al’s farm. And no, I don’t work or speak for the farm, I am speaking my mind based upon what I saw out of guests this year that I thought wasn’t the best behavior ever considering these farmers open up their farm (where they live and work) to all of us. 

Let’s start with parking.  They know their farm and their road so they tell you quite politely where to park.  That doesn’t mean the road and it doesn’t mean parking in roped off areas of the farm or blocking people in or even taking what amount to multiple spaces. Be polite, you are a guest.

blur 2

This is a farm. Not a dog park.

Pets.  This weekend people bought their dogs. Yes their dogs like it was a dog park.  It’s not a dog park, it’s a working farm with valuable animals including the farm’s own dog.  It is simply not fair to presume YOUR pets are welcome.  Keep them at home. Please. That’s like bringing uninvited guests to a sit-down dinner party.

The goats.  The goats are lovely creatures who are independent minded.  So listen to the goat herders. They know their charges.  And please do not feed their charges.  They have plenty of their own food.  Yes, they look at you with those big brown eyes but resist LOL, resist!

The plants. The plants are awesome!  Around 200 varieties of native plants. From all over the Mid Atlantic and Northeast.  I bought my first witch hazels ever here years ago.  On Saturday I had an impulse buy: one of my favorite kinds of oak trees, a Chestnut Oak. It was here at Yellow Springs that I discovered one of my favorite native perennials called Indian Pinks. Also flame azaleas.

And the cheeses? Mmmmmm mmmmm mmmm.  I recommend the goat cheese with mushrooms that was recommended to me this weekend. I can’t remember it’s proper name but it was delicious.

Yellow Springs Farm is located at:

1165 Yellow Springs Rd  
Chester Springs, Pennsylvania 19425
 (610) 827-2014

Enjoy the goat photos and thanks for stopping by.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.